UNICEF steps up awareness campaign after reported bird flu deaths in Bali
By Suzanna Dayne
BALI, Indonesia, 27 August 2007 – Officials in Bali are investigating the death this weekend of a woman who may have been infected with the avian influenza virus. If confirmed, it would be the island’s third death linked to the virus. Thousands of birds have already been culled in an effort to prevent a wider outbreak.
The village of Tukadaya in Western Bali is off the usual tourist track, a three hour drive from resorts that host rock stars and world leaders. This small village is also where the deadly bird flu virus claimed the island’s first victim.
The 29-year-old mother died earlier this month, just weeks after her daughter passed away. Now doctors suspect the five-year-old girl also may have died from bird flu.
“It happened so fast, “ said I Nengah Budi Setiawan of his family’s illness. “My daughter had just started school and she came down with a fever. I took her to the local health clinic and they thought she had typhoid. Then a few days later she was in the hospital where she died. My wife fainted and then two weeks later I lost her too.”
Nearly 80 per cent of human victims of bird flu do not survive; about 40 per cent of them are children. More than 100 people in Indonesia have died after contracting the virus.
Reducing the risk of infection
In cooperation with the National Bird Flu Commission, UNICEF and its UN partners have been working for the past year and a half in high-risk areas of Java and Sulawesi to raise public awareness about the risks of avian influenza.
When news of the outbreak in Bali first broke, the UNICEF team quickly organized a community meeting and sent volunteers door to door to teach residents how to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Schoolchildren are being shown UNICEF films about bird flu and sanitation.
Young as they are, children are crucial to raising awareness and fostering good hygiene practices at home.
Concern over economic impact
Another local concern is about the effect of the outbreak on tourism. The nearby beaches have only recently recovered from terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2003, and many families here rely heavily on tourist dollars.
“We are trying to give an objective picture and information to the world about the situation in Bali so tourists don’t need to be afraid to come,” said the chief executive of the National Commission, Bayu Krisnamurthi. “People need to be cautious, but they don’t need to be afraid. They need to know that authorities here are taking action.”
Local authorities are culling birds in the affected areas and are trying to put a ban on poultry from neighbouring Java, where the Balinese virus is thought to have originated.